It is wonderful to be in India once again and though I have only been here for a day I feel at home in Jodhpur already. Durag Niwas is a beautiful home and Govind and a number of volunteers, Annie, Poppy and Jamila, have made me feel exceptionally settled at Sambhali. Today I sat in on a couple of English classes to see the teachers in action and to meet the girls. At Sambhali itself the classes are largely made up of teenage girls from the Dalit community. I was surprised to see how engaged and interactive many of them were and it lessened my fears that I would be left standing lecturing at the front of a retiring and silent group of participants. Although a few are shy many of the girls seem to have a strength of character that reveals their street wise backgrounds and nearly all of them possess a ready smile. Tomorrow I will spend more time with them before meeting Govind and two of the permanent teachers here, Simi and Tamana, to establish which ten girls might benefit most from participating in the workshop. The decision will be based in part on those girls who are able to come on a daily basis and those who have a level of literacy or english that will enable us to understand each other as well as we can. One of the teachers will act as a permanent translator which is essential and I feel it is important to find out from them which girls they think will engage most with this programme and add the most to the group dynamic we are looking to foster. I am impatient to get started and to get to know the girls better but I know this will come in time. I look forward to giving them their cameras and to see the first images they make of their worlds. I think many of the other volunteers and teachers here are as excited about the workshop as myself and the girls!
i to eye workshops aim to use photography as a therapeutic aid. They create a fun and engaging environment in which the participants learn the basics of photography whilst being encouraged to use their cameras as a means of exploring and expressing themselves and the hardships many of them have endured and continue to face on a daily basis. i to eye hopes to redress the balance of photojournalism a little by placing the camera in the hands of those often the subject of photographs and allowing them to tell their own stories for a change and to control the context in which these stories are then seen.
Sunday, 13 February 2011
Cartier Bresson once wrote 'I believe that, through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us, which can mould us, but which can also be affected by us. A balance must be established between these two worlds-the one inside us and the one outside us. As a result of a constant reciprocal process, both these worlds come to form a single one. And it is this world that we must communicate.' It is this world that i to eye encourages the exploration and expression of. As Wendy Ewald said 'like fingerprints or signatures, the way we see is unique...'
There is a week to go until I leave for India and a million and one things to accomplish in that time. The good news is that I have ten Olympus Trip 35mm film cameras ready and waiting to go and hopefully ten teenage Indian girls ready and waiting to use them. This i to eye workshop is due to run throughout the month of March 2011 in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, in association with The Sambhali Trust. I will be teaching ten girls photography for two hours each day in the hope that by placing a camera in their hands and showing them the basics they will have the opportunity to use their own eyes to portray the realities of the world they live in. It will be a refreshing change for the subjects of so many images to tell their own stories and to control the context in which these stories are viewed. I am already excited to meet the girls I will be teaching, Govind the head of The Sambhali Trust and Kritika, a fashion photographer from Mumbai who will be helping me teach. The aim of this blog is to document the progress of the workshop and to showcase the images the girls produce throughout its duration and hopefully long after it is over. i to eye follows in the footsteps of a number of individuals and organisations that have used photography as a therapeutic aid and as a method of furthering visual literacy around the world. I have been greatly inspired by Zana Briski's work in the red light district of Calcutta which resulted in the award winning documentary Born into Brothels and by the international work of Wendy Ewald laid out in a number of her books. I also recently came across the work of PhotoVoice, a participatory photography charity based in London, to whom I am grateful for their fantastic methodology series and to Silvie for supplying me with a number of their old cameras. There is still a lot to prepare before I get there but I am at least armed with the essential cameras and with an overenthusiastic month's worth of lesson plans!